Sunday, 29 March 2015

Brewing in the 1950’s – where to put your brewery?

I’m returning to Jeffery’s "Brewing Theory and Practice" to look at a short passage that greatly intrigued me. It’s all about suitable – and unsuitable – locations for a brewery.

It warns something I’d never considered: contamination from neighbouring businesses.

“Contamination by impure air is a great danger, especially to beers of low alcoholic content. A district should be selected which is free from factories emitting noxious fumes, and in which such factories are unlikely to be erected. It is inadvisable to build a brewery in close proximity to farm buildings, as dust from hay and chaff is highly infectious. The authors know more than one instance where considerable trouble has been experienced owing to the introduction of bacteria from such a source. It is an interesting commentary on the weak and non-resisting low gravity beverages of to-day that not very long ago farmers used to brew their own beers on farm premises under conditions which to-day would be definitely impossible. The reason for their success was, of course, that the high alcoholic content acted as an antiseptic and preservative.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 18.

I can think of lots of breweries that were located close to factories. In fact a particular example comes to mind from South London. Not all that far from Barclay Perkins’ Park Street brewery:

As you can see, the Black Eagle Brewery was surrounded by other industries, most of them pretty filthy. There were loads of tanneries is the part of London. And slightly further to the east there’s a vinegar works. The railway lines behind are the approach to London Bridge. The same bit of railway whose arches house the Kernel.

The Black Eagle Brewery was owned by Noakes and Co. It was bought by Courage in 1930, which is why I have photos of some of their brewing records.

But what I find most interesting about this passage is the references to farmhouse brewing. And how modern, low-gravity beers could easily be contaminated. Mmm. Thinking of farmhouses, wasn’t the Batemans brewery originally a farm?

There were other potential contamination hazards:

“Flour mills should also be carefully avoided. It is only necessary to look at the roof of a mill near the outlet from the dust ventilator to obtain some idea of the dangers lurking for breweries in the district. Another dangerous neighbour is a fruit orchard. Not only is decaying fruit a prolific source of infecting organisms, but many varieties of so-called 'wild yeast' abound in the air around orchards. Many of these organisms can develop in wort and beer with undesirable results. Overhead expenses involved in the transport both of raw materials and of finished beers play an important part. Proximity to a railway, canal, or river is of the utmost value. There is no need to remark that, in view of the high cost of transport it is most desirable that a brewery should be situated as near as possible to the bulk of licensed houses which it serves. Where this is not possible, stores and depots should be established as near as possible both to the licensed houses and to the transport centres.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 18 - 20.

I suppose if you’re a Lambic brewery being close to an orchard isn’t such a bad idea.

The transport options listed are also striking: there’s no mention of road transport. I’m sure most beer is shipped by road today. Having your brewery close to your pubs is pretty damn obvious. Though several London brewers had breweries off in Burton, far away from the bulk of their tied estate.

And once again taxation is poking its nose in:

“In these days of heavy taxation it is natural that much thought should be given to assessments and local rates. Unfortunately, local taxation is irregular and liable to unexpected increases. At the same time, it is usually possible to form some idea of the probable future development of a district.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 20.

Those bastard politicians, eh, putting up the rates without warning.

I’ll be plucking some more gems from the book. Coolers next, just because I get so fed up with people calling them “coolships”.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Draught Bitter in the 1950’s

Seeing as we’ve looked at the handling of draught beer in the 1950’s at great length, I thought you might like to take a look at some of the beers themselves. And it’s a good excuse for loads more tables.

I’ve taken everything in my mega gravity spreadsheet that’s British, draught and is dated between 1950 and 1959. There will be posts on other styles later, but I’m going to kick off with Bitter, a style that was very much on the up in this period. On its way to becoming, albeit briefly, the nation’s favourite.

I’ve split them into four groups: Boys Bitter (OG < 1036), Ordinary Bitter (OG 1036 – 1037.9), Best Bitter (OG > 1038) and Keg Bitter. It’s a fairly arbitrary division. As would any be, really. I could easily have extended Ordinary Bitter by a gravity point or two at either end.

I’m thinking of assembling a new book covering 1945 to 1960. It’s an interesting period in British brewing, if only for its relative lack of dynamism. After the chaotic changes of the previous decades, it was a period of surprising calm. But it was also when British beer styles solidified into their modern forms.

On with the tables. Beginning with Boys Bitter:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Boys Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1953 Steel Coulson Edinburgh Ale P. 60/- 14 1030
1959 Wm. Younger XXP Bitter 22 0.04 1030.4 1005.7 3.21 81.25% 21
1958 Bernard No. 3 (Pale 1/1) 13 1031 1010 2.72 67.74%
1959 Fuller Bitter 14 0.05 1031.6 1004.1 3.58 87.03% 23
1959 Charrington  BBB 17 0.04 1032.8 1007.8 3.24 76.22% 14
1954 Barclay Perkins XLK 15 0.06 1032.9 1004.5 3.70 86.32%
1954 Meux PA 17 0.04 1033.2 1005.3 3.63 84.04% 20
1954 Meux PA 17 0.06 1033.7 1007.3 3.43 78.34% 24
1954 Barclay Perkins XLK 15 0.04 1033.8 1006.9 3.49 79.59% 19
1953 Steel Coulson PXA P. 70/- 19 1034
1954 Taylor Walker EPA 17 0.06 1034 1008.6 3.29 74.71% 23
1958 Vaux & Co Bitter Ale 17 0.05 1034.2 1007.8 3.43 77.19% 26
1953 Whitbread Pale Ale 16 1035.1 22
1957 Ind Coope Best Bitter 17 0.06 1035.2 1008 3.53 77.27% 19
1954 Mann Crossman KK 17 0.04 1035.3 1007.7 3.58 78.19% 19
1957 Charrington PA 15 0.06 1035.5 1004.9 3.98 86.20% 23
1959 Whitaker Bitter 14 0.04 1035.6 1010.2 3.17 71.35% 22
Average 16.2 1033.4 1007.1 3.43 79.0% 21.3
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
document from the Steel Coulson archive held at the Scottish Brewing Archives
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

Spot anything interesting there? Average attenuation is pretty high at 79%. The only exception is Bernard’s No. 3. Not even sure that should really be in there. Or, for that matter, the two other Scottish beers above it. As they are all 60/-. Which I usually consider to be Mild. Even though I know it was parti-gyled with 70/- and 80/-.

That reminds me. Kristen suggested we write another Beer Style Guide for a different year. I had been thinking of 1927, but I’m tempted to go for a year in the 1950’s. What do you reckon? Any preference for a year? It’s all a bit academic, as currently lack the time to write it.

Getting back to the beers, the relatively high attenuation means that the average ABV comes out at almost 3.5%. Not bad, but it might have left the beers a bit thin.

Next it’s the turn of Ordinary Bitter.

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Ordinary Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1958 Bernard No. 2 (Pale 1/2) 14 1036 1011 3.24 69.44%
1954 Watney PA 17 0.04 1036.1 1009.7 3.42 73.13% 25
1957 Ind Coope PA 17 0.05 1036.3 1006.5 3.88 82.09% 19
1953 Taylor Walker Pale Ale 18 1036.3 27
1953 Truman Pale Ale 17 1036.7 16
1954 Truman PA 17 0.04 1036.7 1006.4 3.94 82.56% 18
1954 Watney IPA 17 0.06 1036.7 1008.4 3.67 77.11% 23
1953 Meux Pale Ale 17 1036.8 27
1954 Charrington  BBB 15 0.06 1036.8 1008.9 3.62 75.82% 26
1957 Watney PA 17 0.06 1036.8 1006.9 3.89 81.25% 26
1953 Young & Co Pale Ale 16 1036.8 20
1954 Truman PA 17 0.05 1036.9 1006.8 3.91 81.57% 19
1953 Whitbread Pale Ale 17 1037.0 24
1959 Websters Bitter 15 0.07 1037 1005.4 3.95 85.41% 20
1953 Wenlock Pale Ale 16 1037 24
1957 Truman PA 17 0.07 1037.2 1007.1 3.91 80.91% 18
1953 Benskins Pale Ale 16 1037.2 18
1953 Tetley Pale Ale 16 1037.3 20
1953 Younger Pale Ale 17 1037.4 30
1959 Ind Coope Red Hand 22 0.04 1037.5 1011.5 3.37 69.33% 18
1953 Mann Crossman Pale Ale 17 1037.5 25
1954 Courage Alton PA 18 0.04 1037.7 1008.1 3.84 78.51% 24
1955 Truman PA Burton Brewed 17 0.05 1037.7 1005.9 4.14 84.35% 17
1954 Whitbread PA 17 0.06 1037.9 1004.8 4.31 87.34% 24
Average 16.8 1037.0 1007.7 3.79 79.2% 22.1
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

I’m surprised that there’s so little difference between the average price of these first two classes of Bitter. There’s a fair bit of price uniformity – 18 of the 24 cost either 16d or 17d a pint. The one outlier is Ind Coope Red Hand which I suspect might have been a keg beer.

There’s a very heavy London slant in this set. Only Bernard, Younger and Tetley are exceptions. Unsurprising, as the majority of the analyses come from Truman and Whitbread.

Once again, there are some very highly-attenuated examples – eight are over 80%, and the average isn’t far off 80%.

Now Best Bitter:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Best Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1954 Taylor Walker PA 17 0.04 1038 1009.9 3.64 73.95% 23
1959 Websters Bitter 16 0.06 1038 1004.7 4.16 87.63% 22
1954 Courage PA 18 0.06 1038.4 1006.4 4.16 83.33% 28
1954 Charrington  PA 15 0.04 1038.6 1008.1 3.96 79.02% 20
1957 Whitbread PA 19 0.06 1038.6 1010 3.71 74.09% 20
1957 Whitbread PA 19 0.06 1038.6 1010 3.71 74.09% 20
1957 Taylor Walker PA 17 0.06 1038.8 1009.3 3.83 76.03% 19
1959 Ramsdens Bitter 16 0.05 1038.9 1006 4.28 84.58% 16
1955 Hancock, Cardiff HB 1039
1957 Barclay Perkins PA 18 0.05 1039.5 1005.9 4.38 85.06% 26
1959 Bentleys Bitter 16 0.04 1039.5 1010.2 3.66 74.18% 19
1954 Whitbread PA 17 1039.5
1957 Courage PA 18 0.08 1039.8 1005.4 4.48 86.43% 27
1954 Barclay Perkins Best Bitter 18 0.06 1040.4 1007.5 4.28 81.44% 22
1959 Ramsdens Bitter 16 0.05 1040.7 1006.2 4.31 84.77% 18
1959 Courage & Barclay Bitter 22 0.04 1040.9 1009.8 4.04 76.04% 23
1959 Fuller Best Bitter 19 0.05 1041.4 1006.1 4.60 85.27% 32
1953 Watney Pale Ale 19 1042.8 27
1957 Ind Coope Double Diamond 20 0.05 1043.8 1008.1 4.65 81.51% 20
1957 Watney Best PA 21 0.06 1044 1014.2 3.86 67.73% 20
1957 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 21 0.04 1044.6 1005.4 5.12 87.89% 21
1953 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 19 1044.7 26
1953 Watney Special Bitter 20 0.06 1044.9 1009.6 4.59 78.62% 28
1954 Watney Special Bitter 20 0.04 1045.5 1013.7 4.12 69.89% 23
1954 Bass, Burton Pale Ale 19 0.04 1046 1008.7 4.86 81.09% 20
1958 Bernard Special No. 1 (Pale 1/4) 16 1046 1013 4.28 71.74%
1953 Charrington Pale Ale 17 1046.4 29
1959 Charrington  Toby Ale 15 0.04 1046.6 1009.4 4.84 79.83% 20
Average 18.1 1041.6 1008.6 4.52 76.68% 22.7
Truman Gravity Book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number B/THB/C/252.
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.
“Cardiff Pubs and Breweries” by Brian Glover, 2005. pages 97-101
T & J Bernard's brewing records held at the Scottish Brewing Archive

I’m wondering what to say about this lot. The attenuation is all over the place – 68% to 88% - but averages a little lower than the previous two sets.

I’m slightly surprised that Draught Bass was one of the paler examples. Though it’s also one of the strongest, at around 5% ABV. As a relatively expensive beer, it maintained its gravity better than most.

Again, it’s a very London-heavy set. Weird, isn’t it, to think how many big breweries used to have their home in London?

Finally, the geek’s favourite, nice expensive keg beer:

Draught Bitter in the 1950's - Keg Bitter
Year Brewer Beer Price per pint (d) Acidity OG FG ABV App. Attenua-tion colour
1959 Simonds Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1037.4 1007.3 3.76 80.48% 19
1959 South London Brewery Golden Keg 18 0.07 1037.9 1005.7 4.03 84.96% 19
1959 Watney Red Barrel 22 0.04 1038.5 1010 3.70 74.03% 24
1959 Flowers Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1039 1010.7 3.54 72.56% 23
1959 Whitbread Tankard Bitter 22 0.05 1039.1 1011.9 3.52 69.57% 22
1957 Watney Keg Bitter 24 0.06 1039.4 1007.6 4.14 80.71% 23
1959 Truman Keg Bitter 22 0.04 1040.5 1008.8 4.12 78.27% 22
1957 Courage & Barclay Keg Bitter 22 0.06 1042.8 1006.6 4.72 84.58% 22
1959 Wm. Younger Keg Bitter 19 0.04 1043.7 1007.8 4.68 82.15% 55
Average 21.4 1039.8 1008.5 4.02 78.6% 25.4
Without Younger 21.75
Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002.

As you can see, they’re all at Ordinary or Best Bitter strength. Except priced at a few pence more per pint.

The William Younger example is very dark for a Bitter. In fact it’s getting close to Dark Mile territory. But you know the Scots – they loved colouring up their beer. And in loads of different shades. Doubtless in some markets that beer was much paler.

Probably Mild next time.

Friday, 27 March 2015


Amsterdam is really buzzing beer-wise. I'm struggling to keep pace with the openings of new breweries and bars. I can thank Dolores for discovering Frits.

It popped up when she was searching for a place a colleague of hers had mentioned. It looked interesting and we decided to drop by one Saturday afternoon.

It's located on the corner the Jan Evertstraat and Mercatorplein in de Baarsjes. An area of Amsterdam we lived in until the kids came along and our flat started looking rather small. Like much of Amsterdam, it's changed a lot in the last five years.

Going down De Clerqstraat in a tram, I was shocked to see how many trendy eateries had popped up on the street. Fancy coffee places are a sure sign of gentrification. I should know, loads have appeared around our way. Girl cafes, I call them. As opposed to the old bloke pubs I hang around in.

The yuppification doesn't seem to have stretched quite as far as Mercatorplein, with the exception of Frits. Exposed brickwork and industrial ducting make perfectly clear who the establishment is aimed at: the young and the hip. That's me out on both counts. (I do still have both my own hips, so maybe that counts as a half.)

On offer are posh-ish burgers and a small but well-polished selection of beers. First thing I notice is that there are no mass-market beers. Brooklyn Lager Budweiser Budvar serve as Pils. That gives away one of the other feature of the beer list: very international. There are a couple of US beers, Thornbridge Jaipur, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissen and Vedet IPA. So about half the 10 draughts are foreign. The others are not only Dutch, but from Amsterdam: Oedipus and Het Ij.

The bottled list  is similarly a mix from traditional European beer countries and the USA. It runs to around 40 beers.

That's a heartening turnaround from a few years back. When Ij beers excepted, few Amsterdam pubs offered anything from small Dutch brewers. It's good to see local beers getting some appreciation.

"What used to be here, Dolores? I can't remember."

"A pub. The type with carpets on the tables."

"I understand why I'd never went in."

We invest in a shared burger. At  8-10 euros, they're quite reasonable for Amsterdam. Though that is without chips. It's not bad. Fairly similar to the ones you get in US beer places.

Beer prices. I should mention those. Around the 4 euro mark for a draught. Which again isn't that bad for Amsterdam. I'll probably be back. Especially as they stock St. Bernardus Abt.

Jan Evertsenstraat 135
Tel.: 020 233 9796

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Cask beer in the 1950’s – empty casks and cleaning glasses

We’re finally there. At the end of my marathon examination of cask beer handling in the 1950’s. I’m going to have to find something else to write about.

Jeffery has had plenty of veiled (and not so veiled) anger towards publicans and their wastefulness and incompetence. I can understand why. A careless or untrained landlord can ruin the brewer’s work in an instant. It must have been frustrating to confide your lovely, sound beer to someone who would transform it into undrinkable muck. And ruin the casks it came in to boot.

Empty Casks.
If the value of beer casks was sufficiently appreciated more care would be taken of them when empty than is now unhappily the case. The life of a well-made cask with proper usage is anything from 20 to 30 years, but we have on many occasions seen this life reduced to a year or so. The reason was that someone omitted to seal the cask up when it was empty and make it air-tight. Over and over again we have found empty casks thrown into any convenient comer of the yard, without shive, peg, or cork. Blue mould round the tap hole has indicated a similar state, and more often than not rain water, inside. Rain water means irretrievable destruction, because once it attains access to the inside of a cask, the cask becomes what is known as a 'stinker'. Excessive and long infection by mould spores also have a similar effect. So it is urgently necessary to see that every cask is made both air- and water-tight as soon as the tap has been removed, even if the cask is still to be kept in the cellar. If it is necessary to put it outside in the open, let it be stored, if possible, in a shady place.”
Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, pages 260 - 261.

This makes me realise that I had no idea how to handle the casks me and my brother owned. I didn’t realise that you had seal a cask after emptying it. The firkins are well a truly buggered now as they’ve been in my brother’s garden for years

Rain water seems particularly dangerous. Brewers hated stinkers. You read about them in brewing texts all the way back to the 18th century. They could, sometimes, be saved by extensive cleaning and treatment, which usually involved shaving wood from the inside and the application of chemicals.

Casks were a big investment for a brewery, tying up large amounts of capital. They were expensive because they were hand-made by skilled craftsmen. It must have been heartbreaking to see them ruined early in their potential life by an idiot landlord.

I’m starting to see the crap behind the romance of wooden casks. I assume much of this doesn’t apply quite the same way to metal casks. The big difference being that you can easily sterilise them, unlike the porous surface of a wooden cask.

And finally . . . . cleaning glasses.

Cleaning and Sterilization of Beer Glasses.
Although not coming within the category of cellar management, a comment may be appropriately inserted here concerning the treatment of beer glasses. With the increasing public interest in hygiene the question of sterilization of beer glasses becomes important. This is not the place to go into the question of adequate washing and rinsing facilities, but a notable contribution to the problem of removing any danger of spreading infection by glasses is provided by the new class of quaternary ammonium antiseptics to which reference has already been made. By dipping the glass into a weak solution of one of these useful compounds, sterility is rapidly attained. This, if followed by a rinse in warm water, results in a glass which is both clean in appearance and sterile. Some of these compounds have been found to affect the head retention of the beer, but there are special ones on the market which if used according to the maker's instructions are entirely free from this disadvantage. A small automatic dispenser can be supplied by which a suitable dose is added each time the sink bowl is filled.”
"Brewing Theory and Practice" by E. J. Jeffery, 1956, page 261.

I guess the glass is the final link in the chain leading form hops and grains to the beer in the drinker’s mouth. And yet another place where all the good work that has gone before can be messed up. When you look at all the places things can go wrong it’s incredible cask beer has survived. And that it’s ever in good condition.

If you were putting leftover beer back into the cask you’d want to be sure your glasses were clean. Then again, if you were pulling crap like that you probably weren’t that fussed about hygiene.

If you’re lucky, I might pull some other stuff from Jeffery’s book. The stuff about a brewery’s location is especially fascinating.